Last Saturday, DNA had a full page article featuring Ranchi. This has nothing to do with Hockey India League franchise Ranchi Rhinos which is in the news now. I am referring to the page where Ranchi’s most famous son Mahendra Dhoni was covered. The Ranchi page had photographs of the school, DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir, which made me nostalgic and brought back fond memories. It also carried interviews of teachers, some of whom I know and some I don’t. The interviews included those of Mr A K Singh, Vice Principal. I had privilege of studying under him. He was our biology teacher and one of the best teachers. He used to make the subject very interesting. Apart from him, our school had some wonderful teachers and even better human beings. They were helpful and encouraging and never failed to use the stick when it was needed.
Nowadays, it is taboo to slap a student but somehow I feel there is some merit in spare the rod and spoil the child philosophy. The good Samaritans and NGOs who have lobbied for no home work, no punishment and no exams in schools will destroy the hard work and mugguculture of Indian students. Most of the NGO workers come from privileged background and have studied overseas and try to replicate what works in developed countries to an Indian context, with disastrous results. And we have an education minister who instead of focusing on primary education is wasting time on IITs and IIMs. But I am getting carried away from my main topic so let me come back.
I was overjoyed to read about Ranchi - the place where I was born and brought up. It is great to know international cricket has finally made its presence in Ranchi. When we were students, Ranji Trophy had come to Ranchi – the match was played between Bihar and Bengal and that itself had created so much of excitement. The cricket matches were played at Mecon Stadium which was inside our colony and most of us bunked classes to sit and watch the match. You could just stand at the stadium gate and watch the match; or go to N block flats (if my memory serves me right), sit on the terrace and have a ring side view of the cricket match.
There was a fast bowler - Randhir Singh, though he was selected for one England tour, he never played for India. He was the epitome of fast bowling and we shouted with joy when he cut and swung the cherry. For the benefit of the readers, let me tell you that TV had not made its presence in those days.
In this Mecon colony and DAV school, Dhoni came and made a mark for himself. Whenever people from Ranchi meet, especially if they have studied in DAV or are from Mecon colony, we proudly talk about Dhoni as if we also contributed to making him what he is. Currently on FB I see many of my friends posting photos with Mahi or his better half.
In my schooling days, my ambition was to play at least one game for my school and I spent a better part of my youth in trying to fulfil my ambitions. Needless to say, I failed miserably. I could not even make to my House team. My contribution to the school sports was to hold the tape at the finishing line for the inter-house races and if I remember correctly I had not done a decent job of it even. Mr Bhadra our sports teacher gave me one tight slap for meandering away. Inter-house matches were keenly contested and fights used to break out with good friends becoming bitter rivals. I have also seen brothers fighting in school and in their house for their house (bad pun but could not resist it) only to be separated by teachers/ parents. In my son’s school they have solved the problem by ensuring siblings are in the same house.
The beginning of November marked the inter-house games and they ended on November 14, Children’s Day, with a gala event. Winning a sports medal was my dream then. After a series of failed attempts, to play one sport after another, I finally gave up. I took pride in representing yellow house in the march past. And that was the epitome of my sporting glory while growing up. Very soon I realised that running, batting, bowling and even playing basketball was much more difficult than solving problems in integral calculus. And I chose the easy path which is concentrating on my studies, getting into IIT and moving on.
In the DNA interview, Mr A K Singh makes a statement that the school has produced 4,000 IITians and 2,000 doctors and nobody talks about them. And that brings me to concept of asymmetrical payoffs. People talk about Dhoni because he is a cricketer who went on to play for country and win world cups. There are 4000 IITians from DAV and many more if you include India but there is only one Mahi. If he had failed, then he would have been ticket inspector checking tickets in Kharagpur station, so the risk he took is huge. Among normal engineers, the variance in pay scale is not that high but in sports or media or entertainment, economic law of symmetrical payoff plays a big role. The basic theme is - winner takes it all. Sachin Tendulkar makes Rs.40 crores or more per annum but some other player who plays for Mumbai don’t even make Rs.4 lakh. The situation is now changing post IPL and that is why I think the quality of cricket in India will keep improving - something akin to the quality of basketball in USA. Maybe after 20 years, we would be having world championship of cricket in India where 22 states (the number could only increase) would be competing the way basketball NBA is played in USA.
The article featured the sports teacher and one commerce teacher – both of them joined the school post 1985 when I passed out. Come to think of it, all the physics and maths teachers might have also slapped Dhoni saying “satyanash ho jayega. Khelo kam, pado jyaada”, etc. After Class XII, all the academically-oriented kids get back the limelight which they had lost out to sports during 12 years of study. And then to see a person focussed on sports to emerge as the icon of school and town might have filled many with remorse or anguish; we don’t know.
To fulfil my sporting ambitions, I simply changed my cricket field. I have started running now. My latest achievement is to run the half marathon. I created my personal world record this year and will strive to break more records in coming days.